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The Balancing Act: Avs Must Preserve Identity Amidst Defensive Pressure from Dallas

Meghan Angley Avatar
May 12, 2024

Dallas took a 2-1 series lead against the Avs with a 4-1 win in Ball Arena for Game 3. For all intents and purposes, this was a 2-1 game in my eyes. Dallas got two empty-net goals in Colorado’s pursuit of the tying goal, but it was that close. The best road team took on the best home team, so it was sure to be a tight one.

Credit to the Stars, they came with a stifling defensive response which they executed near perfectly, Jake Oettinger delivered a strong goaltending performance, and their depth stepped up just enough.

Both teams made some changes, but it felt like the Colorado Avalanche took two steps forward and one step back. Here’s a little of what went wrong and why the Avs aren’t out of this series just yet…

Bad PP

On their first powerplay, Nathan MacKinnon took a slapshot on net, but Chris Tanev made the block. Jamie Benn had a shorthanded breakaway chance the other way but Mikko Rantanen hurried back to get his stick on it and Alexandar Georgiev made the save.

Later in the first period, Ross Colton drew a hooking penalty on a prolonged shift in Dallas’ end. The third line put in work to extend possession and the Stars got a little desperate.

On that powerplay, Rantanen set MacKinnon up for a tip-in, and it even trickled under Jake Oetteinger’s pad onto the goal line, but it didn’t cross it. Rantanen slammed his stick in frustration over the close call.

Both powerplays left a lot to be desired. Dallas did a good job of clearing the puck from their end quickly and coming up with blocks before the puck even reached the net. Through two man-advantage opportunities, the Avs registered just one shot on net: MacKinnon’s attempt from Rantanen off the rush.

They received three powerplay chances total and couldn’t convert. They created three scoring chances and allowed two against. Chances were hard to come by because of Dallas’ defensive structure at even strength, so the man-advantage should have been a greater opportunity.

Colorado moved the puck along the outside as they do on the powerplay, but plays seemed to die there: failed rim retrievals that bounced onto a Dallas stick, blocked shot lanes in an attempt to move the puck to inside ice – it pointed to an issue with execution.

Though it wasn’t easy, Colorado could usually gain the zone and set up for a first look. It was keeping possession that became a challenge. The Avs had to reset more than they’d like.

They had the time, so perhaps it’s a matter of gripping the stick a little less tightly and taking a second to search for the perfect play instead of forcing it.

Didn’t Make Them Earn It

The difference between both teams was that Colorado earned their chances in Dallas’ end and the Stars had a good plan to limit them: cutting their zone time short, not allowing for many second or third attempts, and making entries more difficult.

On the other hand, most of Dallas’ chances came because Colorado turned over the puck in their own end. Dallas made the initial push on entry, but Colorado ultimately made things a little too easy for them.

Colorado had seven giveaways and Dallas had five takeaways in the first period alone.

On Dallas’ first goal, two turnovers and a series of chances from Dallas cost the Avs.

Devon Toews had the chance to clear the puck from behind the goal line, but he sent it to Jason Robertson who took off with it to reset. MacKinnon eventually gathered the puck along the rim and sent it to Toews to clear it, but Toews turned it over to Miro Heiskanen. Zach Parise tried to confront him, but Heiskanen acted fast and slipped the puck to Logan Stankoven inside the left-circle. Toews tried to engage him but was caught outside the lane – Stankoven wristed the puck in off of Alexandar Georgiev’s arm. 

Colorado’s offense felt intentional: skilled passing plays that looked dangerous. The risk of Dallas’ offense came from Colorado’s own mistakes.

It boils down to this: the Avs did good things in the offensive zone for the most part. Sure there were some execution issues (especially in their late push in the third period) that hampered scoring attempts, but they were still in control of that side of the game even if it was foiled at times. It made for a relentless pursuit from the Avs.

Dallas’ D had their work cut out for them. They had to tend to two-thirds of the ice for much of Game 3. They met the challenge well, but it could be difficult for them to sustain it if the Avs push like that for the rest of the series.

And then there’s Colorado’s play in their own end…

That should be the biggest concern coming out of Game 3. The Avs recovered from offensive execution issues by recovering the puck and resetting. It made them a little less dangerous when they had to do it, but they were still in control.

Their mistakes in the d-zone ended up in the back of their net. It wasn’t an abundance of mistakes, but it was just enough.

Too Much of A Good Thing?

Colorado’s execution issues are frustrating, but it’s not as if they can’t overcome it. They’re not above adjustments even if it felt like Game 3 was a bit of the same when it came to self-inflicted mistakes.

They created almost double the hits to ramp up their physicality, double the high-danger chances, and forced Dallas to eat pucks all night with almost double the blocked shot attempts created.

The Avs did do some things differently and took steps forward in some ways, but Dallas did some things differently too. Some more adjustments will be important, but introspection is just as important.

It seemed like the things that gave the Avs the most trouble were born in response to things Dallas does well.

The Stars have good lane management, block shots from getting through, and sweep pucks from their net quickly to make fast clears. As a result, some of Colorado’s offense felt forced to try and counter that with quick (fallible) execution. It led to shorter zone time with pucks ending up on Dallas sticks before the Avs had a chance to get really dangerous.

The Avs relinquished control in their own end due to bad turnovers. It felt like a symptom of trying to exit too quickly to counter Dallas’ neutral zone coverage designed to slow them down by beating them up ice in transition. The breakout was rushed and it led to mistakes. It’s important to exit quickly, but it’s okay to do so thoughtfully.

Did they lose a little sight of their own strengths by looking too closely at Dallas?

There’s a sense that the Avs need to remember who they are and what makes them great too.

It’ll be a hard line to toe because they do need to be aware of Dallas’ strengths, but not so much that they lose sight of themselves.

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